- This project examined a watershed council sponsored volunteer estuary water quality monitoring program, from initial implementation to program status five years later. In addition, literature research and interviews with estuarine experts were conducted in an attempt to devise strategies to strengthen estuary water quality monitoring programs within the state of Oregon.
I assisted in the implementation of the volunteer water quality monitoring program for a watershed council, then reviewed the current status of the program five years later. Based upon this assessment, I found that the initial goals of the program had been met, but I also found that the program had been altered. While the goals of the program have stayed relatively the same, the way in which they are met has been changed to meet new objectives. This adaptive management approach has allowed integration of the program within many watershed council activities, from educational endeavors to expanded monitoring within the upper watershed. Volunteers, from schoolchildren to adults, have been instrumental in collecting scientifically credible data, and the program has been an effective tool to educate people of all ages about estuarine and water quality issues. While this particular program has been successful over the long term, the estuarine component of the program has been de-emphasized. The reduced emphasis on the estuary may be due in part on limited funding for monitoring, and the difficulty associated with assessing restoration needs (a major activity of watershed councils) based on estuarine water quality.
Overall, a more coordinated approach needs to be taken with estuary water quality monitoring in Oregon. While many different groups, such as watershed councils, should and can conduct actual field monitoring activities, implementation and oversight should be coordinated through state, federal, tribal, private, and nonprofit entities that have an interest and role in Oregon’s estuaries.